House oversight to issue subpoenas in census, security clearance probes

Elijah Cummings, D-Md. Official portrait

April 3 (UPI) — The House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Tuesday voted to issue subpoenas on investigations into the Trump administration’s security clearance process and attempts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The panel voted 22-15 to subpoena White House Personnel Security Director Carl Kline for an interview after more than two months of requests to the White House for documentation on the clearance process.

In January, Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., sent a letter to the White House seeking information connected to the clearances of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, his son Michael Flynn Jr., and White House adviser Jared Kushner. Kushner had his interim security clearance stripped a year ago. He was then granted a full, top-secret clearance in May.

Cummings re-sent the request in March after The New York Times reported that Trump intervened to get Kushner his security clearance over the objections of top security officials. The report said the president ordered his then-chief of staff, John Kelly, to grant the clearance to his son-in-law.

The oversight committee’s vote for a new subpoena came one day after whistle-blower Tricia Newbold, the adjudications manager of the Personnel Security Office, said the White House overturned 25 denied applications. In her position, Newbold handles security clearance determinations for senior White House staff members.

Newbold said she was interviewed by the committee and told lawmakers she and other office officials adjudicated the denials of dozens of applications that were later overturned. As a result, she warned that security clearance applications for White House officials “were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security.”

Meanwhile, the committee also voted to issue subpoenas for documents related to the 2020 census from Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. The subpoenas also allow for an interview of Justice Department official John Gore.

Ross testified March 14 before the committee that there was no “nefarious purposes” behind the addition of the question, but Cummings said “the record shows that this was a pretext.”

Ross first proposed the question for inclusion March 26, 2018, stating it is to help enforce Voting Rights Act provisions that protect racial and language minorities — an explanation that Democrats don’t buy. He did so purportedly at the behest of the Justice Department, which he said requested the question’s inclusion in December 2017.

Ross said he turned over 11,500 documents to the committee, but Democrats on the committee said in March they were missing documents that were relevant, including emails and memos, and accused Ross of lying under oath.

“The Department remains committed to an open and responsive relationship with the Committee and has been nothing but cooperative with the Committee’s expansive and detailed requests for records,” Ross said in a statement .


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